Mark Reads ‘Reaper Man’: Part 10

In the tenth part of Reaper Man, the wizards fight a compost heap; Death prepares; and Windle learns something new. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Discworld

Compost Heaps

Seriously, I can’t get over this. There is an extended sequence within this novel where a bunch of wizards try to take down a “living” compost heap. I’m curious as to how Pratchett is going to maintain this sort of chaos and interest beyond this because… well, how does it get worse than this sort of absurdity? It’s not like the compost heap is the only thing popping into existence, you know? How many bizarre and otherwise-impossible-to-describe things appear above the wizards’ heads in this part of the book? How many other attacks are occurring simultaneously in Ankh-Morpork? In other parts of the Disc? What objects are no longer innocent? What other manifestations of life are violent?

I’m fascinated by that aspect of this, too. Why did the compost heap try to eat Modo? That seems so unlike everything else that’s been happening, no? I mean, I thought that maybe that the heap was like… hugging Modo??? Maybe it just wanted to be friends???? BUT NOPE, IT WAS DEFINITELY EATING HIM. Why??? To make itself a better compost heap, maybe?

WHAT ELSE IS GOING TO HAPPEN? I admit that most of this sequence was quite hilarious, and Pratchett has a knack for conveying that humor through the rapid-fire, witty dialogue between the wizards. And destroying the compost heap with Wow-Wow Sauce? Brilliance! But with Modo’s near-digestion, I have to admit that I’m a bit nervous about what else may occur with all this extra life spilling over into the world. Will other people “die” or become undead because of this? I feel like this is a valid thing to be concerned about, y’all. I do! It feels like a genuine risk to the Discworld.

Death

CAN WE TALK ABOUT HOW INCREDIBLE DEATH’S DEVELOPMENT IS HERE? Death, the being who has helped countless lives pass from the world of the living to the next world, has never seen any of these beings as individuals. I don’t think that means he’s disrespectful; I always found Death to be so in previous Discworld books. But think about the sheer number of lives he has claimed. How could possibly remember them all? How could he possibly differentiate between them?

So I found it incredibly meaningful that while working with other people on Miss Flitworth’s fields, he began to recognize the diversity of humanity:

William Spigot was the one that sang when he worked, breaking into that long nasal whine which meant that folk song was about to be perpetrated. Gabby Wheels never said anything; this, Spigot had said, was why he had been called Gabby. Bill Door had failed to understand the logic of this, although it seemed transparent to the others. And Duke Bottomley had been anmed by parents with upwardly-mobile if rather simplistic ideas about class structure; his brothers were Squire, Earl and King.

To us, this is both poetic and the kind of humor we expect from Pratchett. But for Death to have this epiphany? It’s another sign of how he’s changing and doing so rapidly. I think you can see that despite this, Death isn’t exactly ready for change. When he meets Simnel, the local blacksmith, he’s horrified by the Combustion Harvester. Is that because Death is repulsed by the idea of change? Does he believe it’s too much evolution in too little time? All the changes he’s experienced have been subtle thus far, but not this. (And by the way, is Simnel the first named black character in the Discworld? The only reason I ask is because Pratchett goes out of his way to describe Simnel as black, and I don’t know if he means a black person or literally the color black. I briefly recall a mention of a literal black race on the Discworld.)

So does this mean Death, like the scythe, is now redundant? I think that’s a legitimate fear for Death, especially given that he’s about to have a confrontation with the new Death in a few hours. What if he is redundant? What if this is the end of Death as we know it?

One-Man-Bucket

Well, this is awkward.

“Who exactly is One-Man-Bucket?” said Windle.

She lit a couple of candles and sat down.

“‘E belonged to one of them heathen Howondaland tribes,” she said shortly.

“Very strange name, One-Man-Bucket,” said Windle.

Okay, what. Does that mean this joke is like some weird riff on indigenous cultures and names? What about Mrs. Cake’s non-ironic use of the word “heathen”? Can we not do this?

Anyway, One-Man-Bucket still doesn’t really offer up much in the way of explaining to the reader what the hell is going on in Reaper Man until the end, when my brain exploded because WHAT THE FUCK IS ALL OF THIS.

“I think,” he began, “that is, I think they’re some sort of eggs. I thought… why breakfast? and then I thought… eggs…”

Eggs? EGGS? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

“Ah,” breathed Windle. “And they hatch into something with wheels on?”

WHAT THE HELL DOES THIS MEAN? Is that what those things were earlier in this section? This makes no sense to me at all, and I know y’all are cackling because I have most of the pieces of this and still can’t put it together. DAMN IT.

The original text contains use of the words “idiot” and “mad.”

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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